Review by Ian Keogh
After the epic action thrills of Bad Guy Earth, this third Axe Cop paperback reverts to the format of the first by collecting material originally published on the Axe Cop website. As usual, it’s 30 year old Ethan Nicolle freely adapting the wild and unfettered imagination of his now seven year old brother Malachai.
Every superhero needs an origin, and Malachai, despite being only six, has a deep comprehension of human sadness, enabling the construction of some pathos-dripping doozies. One might consider the origin of Bat-Warthog Man to be the most tragic ever committed to print, infected at night by a bat and warthog and cursed thereafter to resemble those creatures facially when darkness falls. Yet a few pages later we learn of Army Chihuahua.
A fascinating element of Axe Cop is seeing Malachai’s world view expand as he absorbs more information, processing it in his own unique fashion. Somewhere along the way he’s learned about chemists, grasped the essence of their capabilities, but views them as a form of wizard able to whip a batch of chemicals together for any defined purpose. Plus you can buy a chemist for $10. ‘The Funny Story’ came about because after some consideration Malachai thought a comedy Axe Cop was appropriate, completely unaware readers consider Axe Cop bonkers hilarious anyway.
More difficult to discern is whether Malachai possesses an innate sense of dramatic pacing, or if Ethan slots in the surprise twists. Ethan does annotate many of the strips, providing explanations for Malachai’s energy drink and dinosaur fixations.
As in the first volume, there’s an extensive ‘Ask Axe Cop’ where readers submit questions about the character and his world, the hilarious extrapolations often more brilliant that the regular strips. The collection also features the first holiday special stories, starting with Thanksgiving for which Malachai created a real visceral horror beyond his own understanding. As an adult he’ll read it back and shudder.
Being the conceptual genius he is, Malachai conceives numerous devices that would improve our everyday lives. Wouldn’t every stroller, for instance, benefit from a poop gun? And why is it that we can’t rent a medium sized dinosaur horn for a day?
We’re also treated to some ‘Axe Cop Presents…’ features, showcasing what Malachai can create when distracted from Axe Cop himself. They don’t start very promisingly, but we’re soon in familiar territory with a guy named Dave Chicken and the fantastic concept of the Secret President, someone who doesn’t know they’re the President! Furthermore, he’s tiny and invisible. Malachai’s version of Little Lulu is as hilarious as the original, but for entirely different reasons.
The weakest section overall is the guest shots. Some creators work with their own children, others channel their younger selves, and while a surprisingly high percentage evoke the mood of Axe Cop, very few match the original article for sheer hilarious ingenuity. Lucas Turnbloom’s Axe Chief is spot on, Matt Wilson and Josh Kenfield’s Mustache Santa good, and Jason Brubaker actually influenced the main feature. The most imaginative, though, and closest in spirit to the genuine article is by Xander Wille at four who has Axe Cop paying for his birthday by selling ice cream to starving children in Africa!
It may surprise that Axe Cop is an incredibly dense graphic novel due the flood of ideas, and certainly beyond a thorough absorption in a single sitting. It’s difficult to imagine anyone with a sense of humour not loving and cherishing it.